Genre(s): Folk, Jazz
Subgenres(s): Chanson, Gypsy Jazz
Length: 39 minutes
Label(s): Play On, Sony
01. Les Passants
02. Je Veux
03. Le Long de la Route
04. La Fée
05. Trop Sensible
06. Prends Garde à ta Langue
07. Ni Oui Ni Non
08. Port Coton
09. J’aime à Nouveau
10. Dans Ma Rue
11. Éblouie Par la Nuit
Zaz is the debut album and stage name of French singer Isabelle Geffroy. The first thing that the listener will pick up on over the course of this album is the many different directions that are taken. Starting with a series of four acoustic-driven songs, including the jaunty single Je Veux, the sound is then stripped back to a quiet acoustic guitar and even subtler harmonium to fill in the silence on Trop Sensible, the only song written solely by Zaz.
This song does have the advantage of letting her voice stand out although it is somewhat awkwardly followed by Prends Garde à Ta Langue and then Ni Oui Ni Non. The latter retains the jaunty attitude of Je Veux and the former is much the same after being moulded into a jazzy temperament that is accompanied by a brass section consisting of a trumpet, trombone and saxophone.
Aside from writing Trop Sensible herself, Zaz shares credit for five other song (Les Passants, Le Long de a Loute, Prends Garde à Ta Langue, Ni Out Ni Non and J’aime à Nouveau) while the other six were written by other composers. None of the songs on Zaz are inherently weak but it is apparent that some of the other composers have a different flair to that of Zaz.
For example, fellow French musician Raphaël Haroche is the sole composer of the piano-focused La Fée as well as the earnest Port Coton and Éblouie Par la Nuit. The latter two are more downbeat and are in the second half of the album, where this mood is more dominant, whereas the first half is livelier so when looking at the album as a whole it can come across as a bit of a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario. The theme is broken up by the cheerful J’aime à Nouveau but Zaz ultimately finishes in a very different place to where it starts.
In spite of having some uneven moment in terms of the overall mood of the album, it is highly enjoyable and the optimistic parts of it will certainly keep your attention irrespective of being able to understand the lyrics or not, some of which are positive when translated (Je Veux) whereas others tell more sombre tales (Dans Ma Rue).
Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy): Lead Vocals (1-11)
Bruce Cherbit: Drums (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9), Tambourine (2)
Toby Dammit: Drums (4, 8)
Manuel Marches: Double Bass (1, 3, 9)
Antoine Reininger: Double Bass (2, 6, 7)
Mathieu Verlot: Double Bass (4, 8, 11)
Germain Guyot: Piano (1, 3, 10)
Fred Lafarge: Acoustic Guitar (1, 2, 3, 7, 9), Piano (4, 8, 11), Harmonium (5, 8)
Alban Sautour: Electric Guitar (1, 3), Programming (1)
Raphaël Haroche: Acoustic Guitar (8)
Subgenres(s): Hard Rock, Punk Rock
Length: 47 minutes
01. Dendrofil for Yggdrasil
06. Ondskapens Galakse
Nattesferd is the third studio album by Norwegian rock band Kvelertak. While they have been referred to as a black metal/rock hybrid in the past it is hardly relevant to Nattesferd because Dendrofil for Yggdrasil is the only black metal song, along with part of Berserkr, on the entire album. Almost everything else is broadly hard rock or punk rock filtered through the lo-fi aesthetic of black metal with a vomitus vocal style spraying all over the music. The lyrics all happen to be in Norwegian and given how they’re delivered it is questionable how intelligible they are, even to a native speaker.
After opening with a black metal song, Kvelertak immediately shifts to hard rock and then alternates between that and punk rock up to and including Ondskapens Galakse. The fusion and alternation of all these different elements is novel but in practice comes across as disjointed (and arguably unfocused) despite the sincerity and passion that the band clearly possesses. The vocal style doesn’t suit any of the hard rock songs and they detract from the experience since songs in this subgenre tend to sound powerful and spirited, whereas this leaves you lacklustre and wanting an actual singer that could have really made the songs into something special.
Berserkr, as the name implies, goes all out with the aggression and wild experimentation in which they blend all three styles into a single song. The majority of the song is black metal meets punk rock and from the bridge onwards the hard rock influences seep back in. To Kvelertak’s credit this is pulled of remarkably well and is certainly a highlight of Nattesferd, as is Bronsegud, a short and punchy hardcore punk flavoured song where the vocal style seems to fit almost naturally.
The last two songs on the album, Heksebrann and Nekrodamus, are almost yin and yang to each other. Heksebrann is a curveball at 9 minutes long while drawing on progressive rock and having a large instrumental section lasting about 4 minutes at the beginning. This contrasts with Nekrodamus, which continues the Kvelertak tradition of having “Nekro” in a song title, and is the complete antithesis of Heksebrann. This song sees hard rock stripped back to the basics and is much slower compared to the other songs, which once again take the listener in an unexpected direction, but is a bit longer than it needs to be.
It’s always good to hear a band perform in their native language and for anyone to embrace the spirit of rock wholeheartedly to the same extent that Kvelertak does. However, the scattershot approach to writing for several subgenres is often inconsistent and they seem to rely on the unpolished aesthetics and consistent use of harsh vocals to add a cohesive thread to the album.
Erlend Hjelvik: Vocals
Vidar Landa: Guitar
Bjarte Lund Rolland: Guitar, Piano
Maciek Ofstad: Guitar, Vocals
Marvin Nygaard: Bass
Kjetil Gjermundrød: Drums
Artist: The Cinematic Orchestra
Album: Man With a Movie Camera
Genre(s): Nu Jazz
Length: 61 minutes
Label(s): Ninja Tune
01. The Projectionist
04. The Awakening of a Woman (Burnout)
05. Reel Life (Evolution II)
07. Evolution (Versao Portuense)
08. Work It! (Man With the Movie Camera)
11. Theme de Yoyo
12. The Magician
13. Theme Reprise
14. Yoyo Waltz
15. Drunken Tune
16. The Animated Tripod
17. All Thing
Man With a Movie Camera is the third album and first soundtrack from the British nu jazz group The Cinematic Orchestra. Written to accompany the silent 1929 Soviet Russian documentary by Dziga Vertov, The Cinematic Orchestra use a modern approach to jazz music that focuses on the song as a whole (as opposed to each instrumentalist in the spontaneous bebop or the arranged cool jazz traditions) that are accompanied by an electronic backdrop.
In some parts of Man With a Movie Camera the nu jazz genre is synthesised well and in others it feels out of place or makes little sense. The Projectionist is literally 6 seconds of a high pitched noise, followed by a 20 second snippet of an old jazz recording titled Melody that is only listed as “trad.” in the writing credits. It is treated to a brief echoing fadeout before we get to Dawn, the third track and first actual song.
Dawn features a string trio consisting of a violin, viola and cello that perform a slow, repetitive melody for much of the song as samples of birds tweeting, keyboard ambience and other sound effects litter the soundscape. This leads into The Awakening of a Woman (Burnout), which as the subtitle suggests is a reinterpretation of the song Burn Out from their 2002 album Every Day, and the organ sound of the original has been overshadowed by the string trio and different electronic interjections. The song slowly builds up and will engross the listener in the same way that the six minute instrumental reinterpretation of All Things to All Men does (simply retitled All Things). It is cut down from the original ten minute version and lacks the presence of rapper Roots Manuva so that The Cinematic Orchestra can concentrate on building the atmosphere of the song which still contains the sinister Main Title piece of music by John Barry for the 1968 drama film Petulia.
There are two more interludes found later in the album and both of them throw the atmosphere completely out the window and make it impossible to justify their inclusion. The first of these is Voyage, which follows on as a separate track from the memorable Work It! (Man With the Movie Camera) but it is nothing but a high pitched steamboat horn crashing through your cranium with a swirling ambient noise playing between the two blasts of it.
At this point the listener is then introduced to the second half of Man With a Movie Camera and the songs are much shorter with all but two of them being under three minutes long. The listener is treated to Odessa, a solo piano piece, following the horrific steamboat ordeal as well as a lighter jazz-centric song (Theme de Yoyo) and a minimalist piano piece called The Magician. Unfortunately the mood is once again thrown off by The Animated Tripod. This is literally 72 seconds of bleeps and bloops with a piano chord and static thrown in at the end to bring the piece to a crashing finish and without the visuals of the documentary for context this makes no sense on the album. The aforementioned All Things brings the album to a close and soothes some of the annoyances found earlier on but they will undoubtedly leave the listener with a negative impression.
Within the context of watching the documentary this soundtrack makes far more sense but as a stand-alone release it doesn’t translate nearly as well and at times comes across as a mixed bag with ill-advised interludes and worthy highlights rubbing shoulders with some other inconsistencies that prevent the album from being what it could be.
A link to the documentary with the Cinematic Orchestra soundtrack overlaid can be found at the bottom of this review and begins 3 minutes and 37 seconds in.
Luke Flowers: Drums
Phil France: Double Bass
Jon Ellis: Piano/Keyboards
Tom Chant: Saxophones
Patrick Carpenter: Turntables/Electronics
Milo Fell: Percussion
Prabjote Osahn: Violin
Antonia Pagulatos: Viola
Wayne Urquhart: Cello